Personal Cipher Engaged
Subject: Secrets of the Ancients
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Embraces All Mystery”
By the sixth day after Cousin Roland and his entourage disappeared into the ruins of Neumos, I began to seriously grow concerned. Even one trained to patience and decorum such as myself can grow anxious when the last hale, adult heir of my dynasty vanishes for extended periods of time. When he emerged once more, I was sufficiently relieved that I even forgot to seethe on Svenya’s deeds when he came to my chambers, as if nothing had changed between us, to tell me all of what had occurred in that mysterious place.
To back up somewhat, after concluding Inquisitor Steendahl’s errand, he and his entourage retired to their quarters, apparently in no great hurry to return to Port Echo. Lord Captain Roland, not overly concerned with getting the Inquisitor off his ship, finally ordered a course be set for the planet known to the ancient Licenians as the “Birth World,” or “Neumos…” a world that had piqued my cousin’s interest ever since he read the scanty intelligence on that world gathered by Explorator Fleet Kappa Seven some seven centuries ago. Our Navigator Primaris, with her usual puissance, pulled us flawlessly through the Immaterium in record time, although many reported disquieting dreams and waking fears for the day our voyage took. We emerged from the warp near the planet, the only one orbiting its yellow star, and the single cold, dead moon that circles it. Our Master of Etherics once more showed his skill, and we were all shortly poring over the data scrolling across the hololithic displays. The planet was clearly a feral one, covered in vast plains, forests, and oceans. Our instruments detected small patterns of minor fires denoting primitive tribes in the vast plains. The only thing of particular note about Neumos itself were the vast, subcontinent-sized city ruins that could be observed readily even from our great distance through the crystalline viewports.
Of more immediate interest was the thrum and fires of a plasma fusion reactor powering a base upon Neumos’s moon. The moon, it would appear, was tidally-locked. The base was built upon the face of the moon that would never see the planet below. Despite giving every indication of being fully powered, with active life-sustainer systems, the base did not attempt to hail us, and no response came from our own attempts at communication. Cousin Roland took his retainers and some void suits and made a visit to the moon.
It wasn’t long before the Navigator Primaris, Lady Soteris returned alone. She informed me that the base was built by the Tech Priesthood of Mars, apparently the very group detached from that long-ago Explorator Fleet. The base, however, was empty, with only a… disturbingly advanced cogitator system with a disturbingly self-aware machine spirit left in charge. This machine-spirit had indicated that it had been 572.28 years since all the Tech-Priests of the base had gone forth to the planet on a survey mission and never returned. While Cousin Roland grappled with the ethical questions surrounding this machine spirit, as well as the rather extensive records held in the base, Lady Soteris and I engaged in discovering where the Mechanicus landing vehicles were upon the planet. We located them in a trio of landing sites within a single one of the immense city ruins. They appeared to be intact, at least insofar as our auspex scanners could determine. We entered a suitable orbit and Lady Soteris utilized the unique gifts of her bloodline to gaze upon the planet below. She reported that at all three sites there was iconography, that of a stylized male figure with a featureless face, right arm extended with palm showing in a gesture of forbiddance. Lady Soteris asked my opinion of the matter, and something about the figure, which she was kind enough to draw a likeness of for me, reminded me of religious iconography from certain mystery cults, symbols intended to ward the inquisitive from that which they should not know.
Eventually, Cousin Roland resolved matters aboard the moon base. He moved some hundreds of our crew to man the station, and particularly its macro-battery guns, while emptying the base of all technology of value, including many cogitator stacks full of Mechanicus data. The plan, as I understood it, was to sell the data back to the Mechanicus, and claim right of salvage over the base. Although it was a worthy and no doubt valuable find, Lord Captain Roland decided that Neumos represented a great mystery. It had swallowed 117 adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus without a trace, and as my good cousin is nothing if not daring in his pursuit of knowledge and wealth, he determined to go to the surface and see if he could discover what had become of them.
Cousin Roland and his trusted retainers and some bodyguards first determined to speak to the primitive tribes-people and see what their legends might tell of the ruins. I am given to believe that Sister Via de Oros comported herself most marvelously in this, her first real opportunity to bring the light of the Emperor to a benighted people. Aided by the Astropath Darrius, she was able to surmount the barrier of language and draw parallels between their own primitive worship of the sun and the earth with the golden light of the Emperor, the “Sky Father.” There was briefly some difficulty, as the natives associate the concept of “emperor” with a dark, evil figure, a machine-god of sorts, an unnatural being responsible for the cursed city ruins. This impression was not dispelled by the fact that Cousin Via’s party arrived in a flying machine and bore technologically advanced weapons. She managed to smooth over that misunderstanding, however, and soon had the natives ready and willing to hear the word of the great Sky Father, the Lord of the Sun.
In return, of course, they related their own legendry which, much distilled, seems to allude to the rise of a once-great civilization which collapsed catastrophically. Most of the population of the massive hive-cities fled in great starships (giving credence to the ancient legends unearthed by Arch-Missionary Vargas Lin that this world was the origin-point for the ancient Licenians). The rest fled to the rural areas, where their descendants eke out a primitive life as nomadic herders of beasts, fearing the ruins with a superstitious dread that, one would think, would have died out long ago if the ruins were truly as ancient as the Adeptus Mechanicus records seemed to indicate. It would appear that the spiritual leaders of the tribes, the shamans and shamanesses, would engage in a dangerous “spirit quest” which involved entering the cities to specific sacred locales where they would commune on the ancient stories, maintained through exacting mnemonic processes, and would receive vision-communication from the “Iron Emperor” who would tempt them with power and rulership. Those who had the willpower to refuse the dark god’s power would return to their tribes as shamans. Those who did not would never be heard from again.
Having learned what they could from the primitives, Cousin Roland and his retainers visited in turn the three sites where the long-missing Mechanicus had landed. Their shuttles were still intact and somewhat functional. Their equipment was less so. Of the Mechanicus there was no sign. The Astropath Darrius, emulating the savage shamans, sought to commune with the mysterious blank-faced statues they found. Battle-Sister Bast noticed a faint dark smoke issue from the outstretched hand of the statue, as Darrius felt a tingling across his body. Acting swiftly, Cousin Via called upon the light of the Emperor to banish all dark powers, scouring the black smoke from the room, and shutting down the statue which, Lady Soteris reported, seemed to be constructed with psychically-active materials. It would appear that there was something to the primitives’ stories.
Cousin Roland’s party ascertained that these temple sites contained ancient technology that utilized psychic power, a blasphemy in the eyes of the Cult Mechanicus, but the sort of thing the Tech Priesthood was ill-equipped to recognize on their own. Astropath Darrius reached forth his own senses in an attempt to reverse the process and contact whomever was on the other side of the statue-machines. What he discovered shocked him. Apparently the entire planet contained an intricate matrix of psychically-active material. Apparently the planet itself was somehow alive. Not only was it alive, but it was quite insane, and desperate to be… healed? repaired? Whatever it was, and whatever had built it, it had effectively kidnapped the Tech Priests of five hundred years ago and now it dearly desired for Darrius to descend beneath the ruins and finish the repairs.
Unsurprisingly, Cousin Roland opted to descend beneath the statue into the depths of the planet where our ship’s auspex scanners could not penetrate, nor any communication signal. That is when my long wait began.
Svenya has just finished telling me of what they found in their long sojourn beneath the surface of Neumos. I find the tale hard to countenance, but I know that Svenya, for all his crimes, has no cause to invent fantasies. It would appear that Neumos is an artificial planet, a world constructed by ancient human hands from the Dark Age of Technology, from an era before the coming of the Emperor, an era so lost to the darkness of history that we cannot even conceive of the powers our distant ancestors wielded. It would seem that Neumos was constructed to be some sort of refuge or paradise, a world psychically connected to all its inhabitants, a world that preserved all the knowledge, memories, pain and love of every person to walk its surface. It served this function adequately until xenos refugees from some great catastrophe, Eldar, apparently, who fled there as their worlds fell to Chaos at the beginning of the Age of Strife, arrived and were welcomed. The integration of alien minds into the immense psychic mechanism that was the planet introduced a tiny flaw, a burr, a thorn, the wormed its way deeper into the planet, growing, until the great Mind that was the world itself fractured.
It would appear that Cousin Roland’s party, led by the Astropath Darrius, were able to somehow heal the world, to extract that thorn. Darrius himself has been locked in the landing craft that returned him to the ship, not to emerge under pain of execution, until the Sovereign of the Void arrives at Craftworld Aletheia, where he hopes to hand over the… minds? souls? of the xenos they somehow extracted. I find the whole notion somewhat fantastical. I tend to agree with Cousin Via that whatever dark madness was pulled from Neumos should be blasted into the nearest star and done with, but Cousin Roland points out that we may have cause to continue dealings with the Xenos of Aletheia, they who protect this mysterious Regent of the Licenian “Republic.”
To be honest, I find the concept of an artificially created planet to be unbelievable enough. A planet-sized machine that bonds with its populace, preserving their minds for eternity is something that strikes at my very soul. That such an ancient machine should predate the Emperor’s coming, his Great Crusade, and all the ages of mankind that have come since is a third impossibility. That we now possess the souls of Eldar from the days of their distant fall is just one more thing in a cavalcade of matters that I will need to pray long and deeply upon.
Cipher Lock Disengaged